DIRECT NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are frozen. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to take the case for Palestinian statehood to the UN or alternatively to dissolve the PA if the Americans are unable to pressure Israel into stopping settlement building in the Palestinian Territories.
Despite the Americans offering Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's rightwing government a massive inducement package to extend the settlement freeze by a further two months, the Israelis appear uninterested.
Washington has offered to increase Israel's annual $3 billion foreign aid package substantially despite the Jewish state being the largest recipient of US foreign aid. Additionally, the Americans offered to supply the Israelis with the latest military hardware including fighter jets and defensive shields.
The US also promised that it would not broach the settlement issue again other than during final negotiations and that it would veto every UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel for a year. The Americans also caved in to Israel's demand to have a permanent military presence in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank once a Palestinian state is established--despite the PA's vehement objections. The White House also offered to support Israel's position regarding the return of Palestinian refugees and the Jewish character of the state, despite the inherent discrimination against Israel's Arab minority that this entails.
The Palestinians are very angry--and they have the backing of the Arab League--at what they see as yet another American president ingratiating himself to a major recipient of foreign and military aid without making any firm demands on Israel.
The absurdity of the situation is underscored by statistics released by Israel's Peace Now movement which said that according to the Israel Bureau of Statistics, there had been no actual settlement freeze but only a slowdown.
During the first three months of the so-called moratorium settlement, construction in the West Bank slowed down by only 16%, a situation witnessed first hand by journalists in the West Bank. Prior to the alleged "freeze" settlement, building was accelerated in preparation for the slowdown.
So Israel agreeing to a two-month extension of the settlement "freeze" would be a drop in the ocean, especially in return for the incredibly generous inducement package. Yet Israel is continuing to call...